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We Want To Return To Our Homes-Benue IDPs Cry Out



HEMBADOON ORSAR who recently paid a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Benue state reports of an inhuman living condition of the IDPs

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Benue state are on the verge of an outbreak of an epidemic of communicable diseases if urgent steps are not taken to check pockets of diseases popping up from within the camps.

The IDPs who look malnourished and sick with frustration written all over their faces, cried out to the government to provide them with enough security so they can return to their homes. They said all the promises made to them of an early return to their ancestral homes have turned out to be fake.

Our correspondent who visited one of the camps in Abagena and Daudu, located along Makurdi- Lafia road which is hosting over 46,000 IDPs gathered that most of the people in the camp are looking malnourished with some especially children having rashes all over their bodies.

Already about seven persons have died as a result of outbreak of measles at the Abagena camp.

One of the Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Francis Zaayem whose two children were infected with measles, told our correspondent that the camp recorded several deaths in the last nine days following the disease that had hit the camp.

He said the intervention of the health personnel in the camp through provision of drugs, though has helped to save the lives of some of the children, their efforts appear inadequate as the condition of many of the children, including his own, seems not to be getting better.

“About seven children have died in our camp here due to this outbreak of measles, some are still lying critically ill with other related diseases,” he said.

“If you go into the hostels you will see them. The disease seems to be spreading very fast.”

Another Internally Displaced person, Nguvan Iorliam told our reporter that, about three pregnant women who were allegedly infected by the measles, had miscarriage.

A camp official who spoke on condition of anonymity, affirmed that that 10 persons have died of other diseases apart from measles.

A health official from Benue Non-Governmental Organisations Network (BENGONET) rendering health services at the camp, Iorchir Terlumun, disclosed that  a total of 23 children have been treated with measles in the camp.

Terlumun, however debunked the allegation that some pregnant women lost their pregnancies because the disease.

According to him, “We have identified about 17 children with severe case of measles and we have referred them to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital for proper medical attention, while  six other minimal cases were treated within the camp.

“We are here on ground and as far as I know no pregnant woman had miscarriage because of measles or other related diseases.

“People have died from different ailments in the camp, some from accident. For instance, a child fell from the upstairs and died but I don’t know of any death recorded from measles,” he added.

Chairman of Religious Freedom Coalition, a US based organization, William J. Murray, who was on a visit to the IDPs in the state expressed worry over the humanitarian situation in the state.

He said he was at the IDPs Camp to assess the humanitarian situation and other condition of living of the inmates with a view to report back to relevant organisations to render necessary assistance to the Internally Displaced.

Murray appealed to the government of Nigeria to provide more security to enable the IDPs return to their communities and continue with their normal lives.

Currently, the most prevalent problem in the camp as of today is hunger prompting the IDPs to demand that they be allowed to go back to their communities and fend for themselves.

Most of the IDPs reiterated their earlier calls on both the state and federal governments to provide enough security for them to go back to their ancestral homes to continue with their farming activities to enable them cater for themselves and not depend on government and other organizations for survival.

A father of six children, Hyacinth Orjir, who looked visibly angry, stated that his wife and children have been feeding from hand to mouth following the gross shortage of food in the camp.

In his words: “I am from Yelwata in Guma Local government area of Benue state, I found myself in the camp because of this Fulani crisis. All our houses and crops were destroyed by the herdsmen.”

He said the government initially promised to provide the IDPs adequate security and farm inputs so that they can return to their homes during the farming season.

“That promise by government has failed. Till date we can’t access our homes,” he said.

“How can a married man with many children be staying in this kind of environment for over six months? The food they are given us here is not enough.  How can about 40 families be sharing one bag of rice?

“For me, going home is the best thing even though the time for planting some crops have passed, there is time for other crops. If we can go home, we will continue our farming at least we should be able to feed ourselves.”

He said he has tried several times to go home only to discover that the herdsmen are still occupying his village and the moment they see anyone, they attack again.

“We have lost many of our brothers who went just to survey our villages to make sure the herdsmen have gone. These people have not returned. They have been killed and there is no way to go and pick their corpses for burial.

Another IDP who said she is seven months pregnant, Ngufan Moris from Keana in Awe local government area of Nasarawa state said, the herdsmen are still carrying out silent killing in her area. “My husband and I ran to this camp with nothing. As I am talking to you now, we are starving,” she said.

“We are tired of staying in the camp, we need security so that we can go back home. Staying in one room with over 20 people is not easy and healthy. We know the government is trying but to feed this kind of crowd is not a small thing. But if we are in our communities, we can farm to eat and even sell to take care of ourselves.” An aged woman who was looking malnourished and sick with over 26 children as well as other families in a room, Mama Kusange Akumbur, said she has been sick for over two months due to hunger, and that she had even lost appetite and could no longer eat well again.

“This is not how I was in my village in Agwantashi in Nasarawa state,” she said in her local dialect.  “The living condition in the camp is very harsh. I am here with my children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, all of us are packed in this one room.

“The food we receive here cannot even go round the little children talk more of adults. I’m appealing to the federal government to urgently provide security for us to enable people go back because we are all ready to go back to our homes and communities.”

From the look of things it seems the hope of the IDPs going back to their ancestral home have been dashed because of unfulfilled promises by both the state and federal governments.

The government had failed to provide enough security and farm inputs to enable them go back home and commence their farming activities.

Apart from the case of measles that hit the camp some few months ago, there is still the problem of hygiene condition of the inmates which poses serious concerns. There is inadequate toilet facilities especially for women and children that constitute larger population at the camp.

The health conditions at the camp cannot be guaranteed because about 50 to 40 people are staying in one room using only one available toilet exposing them to diseases.

Even though some civil society organizations have tried in no small measure to improve the sanitary condition at the camps through the provision of water and also engaging some inmates to be washing the camp toilets every other day, the situation need a lots of attention.

LEADERSHIP Weekend discovered that 22,000 out of the 27,454 children currently taking refuge in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps at Daudu, Guma local government area and Abagena in the outskirts of Makurdi are malnourished.

It was gathered that majority of the children in the two camps could hardly get enough to eat even as they are defecating in the open which pose a serious threat to the health of the inmates.

Our correspondent also observed that most of the children seen around the IDPs have rashes on their body.

Speaking in a telephone interview, the Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Board (SEMA), Emmanuel Shior, said even though all the IDPs have shown their desire to returned to their various communities anytime the governor visited the camps, but insecurity in most of the communities still pose a major challenge.

According to him, “What has led to the IDPs’ continued stay in the camp is insecurity, the IDPs are even tired of staying in camps but as I speak to you most of their villages are not secured, because herdsmen are still attacking them, destroying their crops and grazing freely on their lands.

“So far we have been able to return some of the IDPs whose communities are situated along major roads to their communities. But that is due to the good works of Operation Whirl Stroke whose efforts have helped in bringing relative peace to those communities. However, I can make bold to say that their efforts are not enough, because majority of the IDPs are still in camps, the OWS need the support of the Federal government which is not coming.”

While calling on the Federal government to provide enough security for the IDPs to go back home, Shior disclosed that some of the IDPs from Ukpam, Umenger, Kaseyo and Torkula whose houses were not located in the interior have started returning home.

It would be recalled that following the insecurity at the affected areas, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has opened new registration points and relocated some polling units to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps to ensure that those displaced by herdsmen from their various communities in Benue were not disenfranchised in the forthcoming elections.